These days, consumers are mostly using social media to express themselves and share content that is a direct reflection of their lives at the specific moment. Social platforms are now the tools for making and connecting with friends and a source for getting attention. All of this is accomplished through dialogue and relationships with each other and the brand.
That is to say, social media is now an engagement venue and can deliver amazing benefits to brands if they approach it that way—by fostering engagement among customers and with the brand. If you’re engaging people and they are paying attention to you, that’s a basic form of brand awareness and education. If they share your posts, that’s word of mouth marketing, and in some cases serves as an endorsement. If they comment and tell stories, they are contributing, which is a form of commitment that develops loyalty, advocacy and sales.
This activity, especially the comments, can become valuable sources for insight.
The difference between ‘Like’ and ‘Love’
Large fan numbers alone rarely contribute to a tangible impact on your bottom line. It’s more of an industry vanity metric. Sometimes, if tied to a promotion, you get results, such as sampling, or short-term sales; but it really just isn’t sustainable over time. In fact, large follower numbers can often lead to a drop in a fan’s perceived value of a brand.
For example, a beverage company offered free samples of their new healthy juice drink to people who “liked” their page. Due to an overwhelming response, they ran out of samples. However, many of those who responded would “like” the page only to get a sample, not for the purpose of engaging with the brand or receiving information about the brand. The cost of the program was worthwhile from a sampling perspective, but the accumulated fans had little value in terms of sustainable engagement because they didn’t “like” the page for the right purpose, nor did the brand follow up with any kind of conversational engagement that might otherwise have built loyalty.
large follower numbers can often lead to a drop in a fan’s perceived value of a brand.
Just building up fan numbers doesn’t create engagement or sustain it. You have to create conversations that are of interest to your customers and empower them to do so as well. For several years brands were primarily focused on amassing fans, but after having built up a certain number, they didn’t necessarily know what to do with them. Customers may “like” or “follow” a brand’s page, but that doesn’t mean they will engage with you. This is partly due to the social nature of the media form.
The value of a ‘Like’
95% of Facebook brand “likes” never return to the brand page, so they only see your content if it shows up in their newsfeed. This happens when you post really good social content on your page, or if you pay for ads that send content to a customer’s page. But even then a customer isn’t necessarily paying attention to that ad. It has to be socially engaging whether it’s done through organic (on your page) or paid (advertising) approaches. Data shows that either organic or paid, the more socially engaging the post the more reach it has and the more attention customers pay to it. This is partly due to the inherantly social nature of humans and partly due to the algorithms the social networks use to control what gets through to users.
Of course you want to have fans so you can engage with them, so building that number up is useful in this context. However the real business goal is engagement. Engagement impacts business, not fan numbers. As such, a smaller number of fans with more engagement are more valuable than a large number of fans with small engagement. As an example: 5,000,000 fans with 1/4% engagement = 12,500 people engaged. 500,000 fans with 5% engagement = 25,000 people engaged. In the latter case, by investing less in fan growth and more in engaging them, the overall cost is lower yet with better results.
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